Published onSeptember 22nd, 2022
What Are the Types of Commercial Boilers and Which One Is Best for Your Property?
Is it time for a new boiler in a New York City property you own or manage? If so, you may be confused by the different types of commercial boilers and the wide variety of models available, especially if it’s been decades since your last boiler was installed. Here’s a look at the two main types of boilers, along with a third option if you want to consider separating hot water production from your main boiler system.
Ideal for smaller spaces
You may have heard this type of boiler referred to as a “pork chop boiler,” as it is made up of sections that resemble old-fashioned metal radiators still used in New York City buildings today. These segments are typically made of cast iron and attached to each other by gaskets. Users can expand the boiler size by adding more sections as needed.
Even though sectional boilers have limits to their pressure (15 psi for steam, 160 psi for hot water) and limits to their temperature (roughly 250 degrees Fahrenheit), they can handle an enormous output range: 35,000 to 14 million BTUs per hour.
There are other advantages to sectional boilers too:
- This type of boiler is more compact than a tube boiler (see below), which makes it perfect for a limited boiler room footprint.
- Installation is simpler, as the boiler is assembled on-site.
- If your demand increases, or if you renovate and add more space, the boiler can be expanded to accommodate the new requirements.
- As long as you treat your boiler water to the proper pH, sectional boilers are resistant to corrosion, which reduces leaks, interior damage, and other factors that reduce the boiler’s lifespan.
Tube boilers, as the name implies, are constructed with metal tubes inside the boiler. The tubes heat up, thereby heating the water in the tank to produce steam for radiator heat or hot water for bathing, cleaning, laundry, etc.
Fire-tube boilers, one subtype of the tube boiler, are more common in residential settings and can be used for both heat and hot water. Hot gasses in the tubes heat water in the tank via the process of thermal conduction.
Less expensive than other boilers to maintain or replace, fire-tube boilers have an even larger output than sectional boilers: 500,000 to 75 million BTUs per hour.
The other subtype, water-tube boilers, are used more commonly in large physical plants, such as those on hospital and university campuses, and industrial settings. In this kind of boiler, water passes through the tubes to heat the tank water.
Although they are more expensive to repair, water-tube boilers use less fuel than fire-tube boilers. They also take up less space. On the downside, they are most subject to corrosion of the boilers described here, as well as clogging from graphite particles, which is known as graphitization.
On-demand hot water
When replacing an old boiler, it’s the perfect time to decide whether you want to keep your hot water production in the boiler room along with steam heat. On-demand hot water from coil boilers (not to be confused with tube boilers) is popular today for several reasons:
- You save money and conserve energy, since water is only heated when it’s needed, not any time the boiler temperature drops below a certain point.
- There’s no need to run a boiler all year, once the need for steam heat is over in the warmer weather or if your building uses electric heat.
- On-demand hot water heaters take up less space than one giant hot water boiler or multiple old-fashioned hot water heaters.
- You can place on-demand hot water units nearly anywhere, whether adjacent to each condo or clustered together in a convenient location.
- When the on-demand hot water heater is set up properly, users shouldn’t run out of hot water, as there’s an endless supply.
How do these “tankless” water heaters work? When a hot water faucet is turned on, coils inside a small tank, usually mounted vertically to a wall, heat up rapidly to provide hot water.
On-demand water heaters may be right for your building if:
- Your boiler room is cramped, and you want more space for your heating equipment only.
- You have a lot of trouble operating or maintaining a traditional commercial hot water boiler and would like something less complicated.
- You find your building running out of hot water during peak demand times, when the boiler can’t keep up.
- You don’t want to worry about heat loss between the hot water source and units (by placing an on-demand unit in or next to each unit).
- You and/or occupants are finding fuel bills exorbitant and want to cut costs.
- You’ve crunched the numbers and installing on-demand heaters will be less expensive than replacing your hot water boiler.
If your boiler needs replacement, if you want to discuss the possibility of on-demand hot water, or if you want to extend your building’s boiler system lifespan with timely professional maintenance, Calray Boilers are the experts to call. You can reach us at 212-722-5506 to schedule an appointment, and we’ll make sure your hot water needs are met, no matter what size the property is.